Critics slam Hong Kongs move to disqualify pro-democracy candidates from September election – CNBC

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong poses for the press while holding a candidate nomination form as he announces his intention to run for the Legislative Council general election in Hong Kong on July 20, 2020.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

The United Kingdom has condemned Hong Kong’s decision to disqualify pro-democracy candidates from the upcoming legislative council election. Other critics around the world have also raised concerns over the upcoming polls.

It comes as authorities announced Thursday that at least 12 pro-democracy nominees, including high profile activist Joshua Wong, have been disqualified from running in Hong Kong’s upcoming elections. The Hong Kong government does “not rule out the possibility” that more nominees will be disqualified, it said.

Incumbent lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung, as well as Lester Shum, a student leader in the so-called Umbrella Movement, were also barred from standing as candidates in the legislative council elections.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and a former British colony that has a separate legal and economic system from mainland China.

The Hong Kong government said the 12 potential candidates were disqualified because their nominations were “not in compliance with the requirement under the Legislative Council Ordinance.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab slammed the move.

“I condemn the decision to disqualify opposition candidates from standing in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections,” Raab said in a statement on Thursday. “It is clear they have been disqualified because of their political views, undermining the integrity of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, is ruled under the “one country, two systems” policy. That framework grants allows those living there limited election rights.

The upcoming election will be Hong Kong’s first since the national security law came into effect. Chinese officials said the law is meant to prohibit secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference.

But critics worry it could undermine the principle of “one country, two systems” that was guaranteed under a treaty signed by the U.K. and China before Hong Kong’s sovereignty transfer, and meant to remain in place until 2047.

Nominations for the election close on Friday. The vote is scheduled to be held in early September, though media reports suggest that it may be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China — a coalition of lawmakers from various countries including Australia, Canada and Japan — said the obstructions were “unacceptable.”

“The decision to disqualify democratic candidates and the anticipated delay to September’s Legislative Council election represent unacceptable obstructions of the democratic process in Hong Kong and raise further concerns about the erosion of rights and freedoms in the city,” they said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Hong Kong to proceed with the elections as planned.

“They must be held. The people of Hong Kong deserve to have their voice represented by the elected officials that they choose in those elections,” Pompeo said on a radio program, according to an official transcript.

More than 600,000 people in Hong Kong showed support for younger nominees in an unofficial primary in mid-July, according to Reuters.

At a press conference on Friday, pro-democracy activist Wong said: “Beijing has staged multiple acts to prevent the opposition bloc from taking the majority in Hong Kong’s legislature.”

“Banning me from running (in) the elections would not stop our cause for democracy, even though the government could soon declare democratic aspirations illegal under the new law,” he added.

On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter that Beijing is showing “total disregard” for what Hong Kong citizens want and is quashing the city’s “last pillar of vanishing autonomy.”

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